Ask Sam Mailbag: 06.23.17
Sam Smith opens his mailbag to answer readers' questions.
I'm assuming Wiggins was not available.
Sam: You’re assuming correctly, and LaVine wouldn’t have been if he hadn’t the ACL tear since the Bulls, as you may recall, tried this last year and all they were offered was No. 5. Now, it was No. 7, LaVine and No. 5 from last year. But you wait any longer and after next season, Jimmy is one year from his opt out and thus becomes a rental and his value, as you see with Paul George, becomes almost nothing.
I was reading takes on this trade and, boy, fans hate Gar/Pax. I've never seen anything like it. It's like reading the worst of political comment threads. Do Bulls officials notice this, and do you think it's as unprecedented as I think it is? From my end, Gar/Pax seem to me a pretty average crew, with average returns. I could name 15 franchises off the top of my head who are basically in the same position, but to hear fans' take, we are the worst. Are you seeing the same thing?
Sam: This was the nation’s founders main concern about democracy; it doesn’t work if you let people have a voice. It’s why they didn’t allow everyone to vote nor listened to them. There’s no way you would have gotten the Constitution let alone a vote for independence if you had polling back then. It’s the essential flaw of the internet: People who long had no voice have a voice now that can match those who are responsible and are held accountable for their actions and behavior. Really, who spends their time, at least who has some grip on reality, hurling invective at sports executives.
Sure, have a debate at dinner or in a bar or at work because that’s one of the great appeals of sports, but to anonymously demean someone for merely doing their job—and in this case I challenge anyone to come up with a better plan that is actually realistic as opposed to Jimmy for three No. 1s and Kevin Durant—hardly raises to the level of response. I’d like to think the Bulls managers are well past paying attention to that stuff as I think Trump, Bush and Obama also have had their share of critics and seem to move on. Did you know George Washington was condemned in media in his second term as a traitor and imbecile selling out our country? That, by the way, was when social media began.
You talked all the time about DRose's knee injury and how hard it is to come back from. In your article you said nothing of the sort. You said the Bulls were confident about recovery and talked about how the Bulls now have a foundation and a future. How is drafting a seven foot rebuild of channing frye, getting an injured shooting guard going into restricted free agency by the time he returns, and a PG who shot 37% and is old as far as young players go... a foundation? My plan would have been to trade with the Celtics before the draft for #3 pick and Marcus Smart. Draft Fox. It wouldn't have been much to ask for, and maybe they get lucky and DWade opts out. Maybe the Celtics throw in Rozier too. This deal made was bad on so many levels.
Sam: That would have been my plan, too, except for the fact the Celtics didn’t want Butler (they seem focused this summer on Gordon Hayward) and did you, by the way, see all those draft picks traded for stars like Paul George, Kristaps Porzingis, LaMarcus Aldridge? The Bulls, in my view, got lucky that there was one guy who knew Jimmy because he coached him and prized him perhaps above his NBA value and the Bulls were able to extract a package of potential starters to kick off a credible building plan instead of the 76ers dumping action of getting players, seeing them improve and then dumping them to keep losing. Maybe it eventually works now with a pair of 1s, but it’s deceitful.
Jimmy’s an excellent player and I believe he makes the Timberwolves better. I hope he does as I like Jimmy and Thibodeau. You shouldn’t want the team you deal with to fail. You want people to feel good about dealing with you. It doesn’t help the Bulls if Minnesota is bad. All you need to care about is your own team. I understand fans and most media don’t know what goes on in actual negotiations. But having heard so many big names and seeing only Jimmy traded and to the guy who coached him should be a hint that there weren’t big packages offered or available. With the cost of veterans, and Jimmy closing in on a huge extension, teams want a player who moves the needle, lifts you to big time contender. LeBron, Durant. Otherwise, top draft picks and much cheaper and your fans love them.
Even a losing franchise like the Suns with young players wouldn’t give theirs up. OK, maybe if you took $100 million of their bad contracts. But then you are where they’ve been for the last four years. The Lakers had to give up a No. 2 overall pick just to get over a contract mistake. Yes, I agree ACLs are bad and tough to get over, which is why I won’t care if LaVine isn’t back for a year from his February injury. The Chicago media and community for some reason was screaming at Rose for not coming back in nine months. A year from his injury was after the season; yet we had a Rose watch starting in February. I assume LaVine won’t get that unfair treatment. And then Derrick had a few more meniscus tears, but he’s pretty darned fast now if you saw him at all this season.
I don’t know Markkanen, but I do know if Thibs kept the pick he was taking him. And, of course, we know Thibs would have taken every good player the Bulls ever passed on. The point is you had to start sometime; maybe they should have last year, but Jimmy asked for another chance, “Let me recruit.” Rose didn’t want to recruit? OK, he would. He helped get Wade when Miami, the team that knew him best, didn’t want him back. Give it one more chance. Remember, the Bulls were thinking about this a year ago. It didn’t work; remember, when Rondo went out the Bulls couldn’t win one game from Boston with three of those four at home. It was time, and it seemed to me a pretty good return given the marketplace and what everyone else got.
Considering the loss of Carter-Williams and probably others (Mirotic?), the Bulls suddenly have a lot of cap room. Should they keep Rondo as insurance in case Dunn is a slow learner? And Jalen Rose expressed the opinion that the Bulls were fleeced by the Timberwolves. What is your opinion of the trade?
Sam: I hardly think, as I’ve stated, the Bulls were fleeced. Actually, the last time they probably were fleeced was when they traded for Jalen back in 2001 and he basically quit on them because he decided he didn’t much care for playing for Tim Floyd and young guys. I was a bit embarrassed as I’d lobbied hard for that trade as I feared what Artest might do, and he eventually did, so it didn’t end all that badly. Of course, I may have taken the same course as Jalen watching how that team was run. Jalen used to be a well studied guy about the NBA, but he’s on TV now, so he doesn’t pay as much attention to what’s going on as much as he once did.
I am apparently in the minority of Bull fans as I was never a big Butler fan because I felt he was a poor leader and undermined the team with his efforts to be their leader. Jimmy was part of 2 big time chokes against the Cavs and a big choke this playoff after Rondo went down. Yes he is a good well meaning young man but as a leader and how he plays did not fit what the Bulls need. It appears to me that the focus of this team is now off the players and on Hoiberg to pull it all together using his approach with players that now appear to fit his scheme. Do you agree with this?
Sam: Yes, I do think this is the first time you can begin to judge Fred as an NBA coach. Really, the guy gets Rose, Noah, Gasol and Jimmy at the end of their run and the second year he gets Wade and Rondo, natural enemies who remained so (see January social media), with a reboot and 10 new players. This after Jimmy a month into Fred’s first season for some inexplicable reason calls out Fred for not coaching harder. I actually think it was just lack of sleep since that was the day after the four overtime loss. But each day stands independently. Now Fred at least gets a chance with a team committed to its young players and the veterans there for the stated reason to help and keep quiet otherwise. As for Jimmy, no offense, but he wasn’t a leader. But neither was Rose, Gordon or Deng. You either have that personality or you don’t. It’s not a disgrace. It’s also not the reason they lost to the Cavs. They weren’t as good. Jimmy grew up in basketball as more the supporting player; remember, role player at Marquette, 30th pick. He worked and committed himself to be great. I am intrigued to watch the interaction in Minnesota with a player, Towns, clearly more talented.
So the Bulls traded Butler for the 7th pick, Lavine and Dunn. It's too bad they had to include the 16th pick, but whatever. Ainge... Ends up with Tatum and a future pick. He could have added Fultz AND Butler or at least one of them... Instead just Tatum. I realize they can still add Hayward. How is Ainge viewed as a genius and Pax is viewed as needing to be fired? Butler led the Bulls to a 41-41 record. What am I missing?
Sam: No one is quite sure what the Celtics are up to other than Hayward, but if there is a team seemingly wasting opportunities it’s them. Especially with the Cavs apparently in some disarray. But the Celts did win a title and they did pull off the draft heist of all time with that trade of Garnett and Pierce, so Ainge deserves the plaudits. But if he can’t cash these picks in I assume he’s calling Pax pretty soon and asking why they are being so mean to him and what to do about it.
For the first time since Luc Langley was drafted, The Bulls have made our major newspaper here in Australia. Here is the headline: "Trade that made the once mighty Bulls the laughing stock of the NBA". We are up for a tough few years aren't we?
Sam: OK, that’s it, mate, the dingo ate your baby. And after the Bulls actually let Luke Schenscher wear an NBA uniform. Cameron Bairstow never would have gone walkabout without them.
Amid the vitriol being spewed your way this morning by angry Bulls fans, this is an amazing trade for Jimmy. KAT is a superstar, a true top NBA player. Wiggins is a natural scorer. And Jimmy gets to show these guys how Thibs expects it to be done. One bad year does not make a bad coach and some around the league have forgotten just how good Thibs is. The TWolves have the potential to be very good, Jimmy will get a lot of credit for the turnaround, and yeah he gets to play with KAT and Wiggins and coached by Thibs.
Sam: I agree they have some intriguing possibilities, and a big part of that will rest with Jimmy. Those players as good as Towns is will look toward Jimmy because of his credentials and resume. Though this isn’t the Jimmy Thibs left. Thibs relied on that Jimmy, as you’ll recall, for 40-plus minutes per game defending relentlessly. He doesn’t play like that anymore, much like how the Cavs rest LeBron much of the game on defense on a weak offensive player and use him for limited periods at the end. Which LeBron wasn’t even much up to in the Finals. Of course, he did have to do an awful lot otherwise.
Obviously, Minnesota has plenty of offense, so will Jimmy accept deferring to those guys offensively at the risk of his offensive numbers? Remember, in the West there’s Durant, Davis, Leonard, Griffin, Aldridge. And Wiggins. Much tougher to make an all-star team at forward. Jimmy and Thibs know one another well, but that regimen can be difficult and it seemed to be wearing on Jimmy at the end. He’s obviously an upgrade for them and especially for a young team that essentially led the league in blowing late leads. I’m picking them to be a playoff team. I hope they are. I think they’ll be one of the more interesting teams to watch and I’m guessing I’ll get to watch them on Christmas Day this year instead of having to go to a game.
With the addition of Dunn at point guard, how do you see MCW, Grant, and Payne panning out for the Bulls next season? Let's not forget Canaan and Rondo. Do they move or release one or two? If so, what other positions on the team do the Bulls need to address?
Sam: The Rondo thing is interesting. He’s great with the young players and they benefit by having him around, but he’s still working on a career and a new deal, and his play late in the season and in the playoffs showed he’s still pretty good. I’d like to see Dunn start and I don’t see Rondo as a small minutes backup. I’d say it’s probably mutually beneficial for a parting. It sounds like from what the Bulls said after the draft they intend to keep Mirotic. I assume it also depends on his offers as a restricted free agent. Carter-Williams, I assume, opts out to be a free agent while the others take a shot at the open backup job.
After all, this next season isn’t about the playoffs. Assume with all the young guys Canaan moves on. I know everyone is down on Payne, and he didn’t help himself the way he played and the condition he was in when he came in February, but it wasn’t much fair to throw him in like that with impatient veterans. There’s something there. He was a lottery pick and the Bulls liked him a lot in that draft. He can score and is quick. He could surprise. I think the Bulls want to take a good look at him and put him on notice his NBA career may be at stake. We’ll see how he responds.
I love how everyone wants the Bulls to do something and then when they finally do it the same people are upset with what they got. What did they expect to get for Butler? I think this deal was as good as they were going to get. Of course most of this depends on LaVine's health, that to me is the biggest issue with whether or not it was a good deal for the Bulls, so we won't really know for a few years, and that's how trades work, usually a risk somewhere. The other thing that I think is that usually a city overvalues their "star" and think he is better than what he is. To me, I think the other NBA fans/media around the nation are putting Butler too high compared to what I think his value is.
He is a great player with a bunch of tools that I love don't get me wrong, but he just is not a #1. Put him on a team with Lebron and Kyrie and sure that is looking great with him being a #2 or #3 type player for your organization, but he is not that superstar you can call a #1 to lead your team to a championship. I will always be grateful of how hard Jimmy worked and thank him for the years he put in and how much fun it was to watch him progress each year. He is obviously a hard worker and dedicated to his development. I think he is in the right place with Thibs and this trade can end up working for both sides. Give GarPax a break people, they did the best they could with this situation!
Sam: That’s a fair analysis. How did you get in my mailbox? Jimmy made himself a star level NBA talent with his grit, his heart (cliché alert), determination, work ethic more, perhaps, than his talent level. That’s how you end up 30th and on the all-NBA team. Like Draymond. Right team. Right role. Put him somewhere else and he’s an undersized four averaging eight points. It’s much harder to notice a guy playing good defense on a team losing 65 games. Then, what, you lose by 12 instead of 19? We saw that in the Olympics when Jimmy generally never cracked the regular rotation or certainly starting. It’s not a negative since making the Olympic team brands you elite. But it’s like when you’re a good player on a team and they have tryouts and Tom Brady shows up and you figure No. 2 starter is OK.
Certainly there is risk because if there weren’t, Thibs wouldn’t have given up any of them. If he thought any could be all-NBA he would have kept them. But that’s what any deal making is about. You do what’s best for you and they do what’s best for them. Jimmy was popular also in this era of fantasy sports since he was a great one to have as a stat stuffer. Not likely to happen on a team with a great assist guy and two big time scorers playing for their first contracts; so they want the ball. That’s Thibs’ job to figure out. It made a lot of sense for him taking Jimmy for three players who couldn’t/wouldn’t start for him. That’s why the Bulls basically had no other serious offers. GMs know Jimmy isn’t coming in to be Kevin Durant or LeBron; he’s coming in to complement. He can be great at that and teams are about fits. We’ll see if Thibs can avoid the fits and fit it together.
Do me a favor, tell GarPax to cut the drugs or share them with us cause obviously something is wrong. Clearly they are on crack or something else. They couldn't even hold on to the Bulls 1st rounder in such a deal. How can someone get ripped off that much? Also I dont get Ainge. He should have paid and gotten Jimmy. That is the only way the Celtics would have been able to make some noise. They wont help him this or next season. And who is this Mikka Hakkinen? Are they hoping they landed Porzingis or something? Let this all be a bad dream...
Sam: So, opposed?
This Bulls' fan is back! Woohoo!
Kris Dunn! Holy moley, a real point guard that rebounds, distributes and plays the other side of the ball. Haven't seen much of him, maybe his shot is broken. Can't wait. LaVine has an ACL - that means he's re-learning how to play. May not be of much use for a while. Markkanen is said to be soft. Bulls already have one of those, unless they lose Mirotic not so sure what that's about. Second unit. Dunn+Valentine+Zipser. I do wish they'd taken Bam with the pick, that would have given them the rim protector that can switch on the perimeter and a guy that can take it hard to the rim.
Sam: I think that’s another thing on 16; I think the guys they most wanted, Bam, Kennard and Mitchell, were gone by then, and then you were looking at limited, project big men. Frankly, I doubt you get the deal done without Thibodeau getting a pick back, so it wasn’t worth it to risk it for a pick you weren’t thrilled about. Though I shudder to think about having done nothing and then coming out of all this with just Justin Patton, T.J Leaf or John Collins. I can imagine my mail then.
Sad to see Jimmy get traded. Not sure what the near future holds for this team. He was our best player. How does this compare to the Elton Brand trade?
Sam: I’ve always said it was the right idea but the wrong guys. So we’ll find out. It was what the fans and media said the Bulls didn’t do, go for excellence. They figured, accurately, Elton could never lead you to a championship, and at his best before surgeries he got to one conference finals. Two young seven footers, inside/outside, a combination of Shaq and Garnett. Well, that was the plan. Tough when you have to scout them when they are 16. This time, like with Elton, the Bulls agreed they were giving up the best player in the deal but one who could not lead you to a title. This time the prospects are more mature, more experienced and not coached by Tim Floyd, who right after the trade decided he wanted to be the coach of veterans.
They don't deal my favorite Bull, Robin Lopez. Doubt he wants to be on a rebuilding team. Going to be a crazy summer.
Sam: Robin is interestingly lost in all this. What you forget in rebuilding is you still have to play 82 games, and you still are an entertainment attraction, like a Broadway show. OK, maybe standbys, but still pros. Lopez is a solid big man, isn’t high maintenance, is satisfied with playing 24 minutes, great teammate, decent contract as you still have to spend some 80 or 90 percent of the cap and fans deserve a level of competition. My guess is he stays around, and it’s not like they have a logjam of replacement centers.
Great trade for the Bulls because you have to look at it also as getting a top five pick next year by being bad versus number 16 again. It will be fun and hopefully they've done their homework and scouting.
Sam: May just mean the whole staff wants to go to that November Holiday college tournament in Hawaii. As they said, yes, it’s on them now. They’re going to get a high pick next season and perhaps another. On the clock?
I hate to see Jimmy go, but it made no sense to keep him. He will earn a max deal for his next contract and that's not conducive to rebuilding a young team. As for what they got, how much better could they do? A lottery pick point guard they tried to trade Jimmy for last year, an uber athletic 2 who could be headed for the All-Star team himself if he recovers from surgery, and a three-point shooter who has the potential to be Kyle Korver plus six inches of height. That's three lottery picks who bring youth, athleticism and shooting to a team whose needs going into the draft were listed as youth, athleticism and shooting. Of course it's a risk. They could all bomb, and Jimmy could sustain a terrible injury. But at some point you've got to pay your money and take your chances. I wish everything good for Jimmy Butler. He's been a great role model and a great citizen, not to mention a great player. I hope to see him and the Timberwolves go far in the 2018 playoffs. And I look forward to rooting the young Bulls on as they develop their full potential.
Sam: I have some mail for you to answer.
I must be the 4,000th person emailing you about this by now, but...
Couldn't we have gotten more for Jimmy? And is it too late for Dwyane to rescind his contract agreement? It would seem better for both parties to part ways.
Sam: The Bulls wouldn’t mind, but Dwyane made a deal and they’ll stand by it. They didn’t have to sign him. They wanted to sign him. Wade shouldn’t in the least be apologetic about getting paid. I’ll admit I also was somewhat surprised that teams like Denver with players not top five picks in previous lotteries who were not All-Stars whom the teams didn’t even want to give up. And where were those teams going? Not easy to make a trade, which is why we obsess over rumors and then like a salad are hungry for more practically before we finish. It was amazing to me the number of All-Star level players, like Aldridge, Drummond, George, who you couldn’t get a draft pick for to take a teenager. And we’re also talking smart guys like Popovich.
What are details on the trade exception? I know it's $15.3 million but how can it be used - how does it work? And why is it good for only a week? And with Butler gone, who starts at small forward?
Sam: This is all new stuff to me, also, because it’s the new CBA and I really haven’t read the details yet. But it’s not just for a week. It just may be. There are other factors involved if the Bulls are over the cap July 1 and whether they use their exceptions this summer and it still could be useable up to a year from the date the Bulls acquired it for Butler.
The Bulls are clearly not going to chase veteran free agents, but there are ways to get players with cap room, like the Nets are doing taking a contract and a No. 2 overall pick. That’s another way to add talent, so you don’t want to load up with too many players when you are not quite ready to compete yet. As for small forward, that’s where the fun—if not the wins—start. Denzel? Zipser? Lauvergne? Nah. That’s what this is all about, to start finding out about guys and where they play and whom they play with. It’s the fun of a rebuilding since there’s little to revel in the results. It’s the mystery, the hope, the expectation, the unknown.
Who steps up and takes a spot? Maybe someone else comes along in trade, salary dump. I can’t predict a starting lineup now, but perhaps Dunn, Wade or Valentine (holding the seat for LaVine), Zipser, Portis/Mirotic/Markkanen and Lopez. We’ll see about Felicio, a free agent, Lauvergne and who knows what summer league holds. Get your NBA subscription.
Can you explain to me what the Bulls are doing? I really don't understand.
LaVine just tore his ACL! Disappointed again.
Sam: I heard Thibodeau speaking with Minneapolis media saying LaVine was coming along quickly, an unusually hard worker and that he, Thibodeau, was positive about the progress. Of course, he also was trying to sell him, so we’ll have to see. He’ll be in Chicago Tuesday with the other new Bulls and we should get a better update then. I agree ACL has been a scary acronym here for one of those great athletes, but you don’t get a shot at them unless there is some risk. So let’s see. The kid can shoot threes well, so it’s not like there’s nothing there.
The Butler trade looks like the Bulls are getting ready to dump salary in order to sign free agents for 2018/2019. Of course, they will probably find out that, once again, top players don't want to come to Chicago. Where is Jerry Krause when the Bulls need him most?
Sam: No, I think it’s the opposite. I think they finally accepted that wait-for-free-agents thing not only wasn’t working, was less likely to work with the rules changes in the new CBA, and wasn’t appealing to fans. This was about taking a chance with young talent. One way a lot of teams build these days is to examine previous lottery picks who didn’t work out and try them until someone hits. They’ve got the talent and sometimes it just takes time (James Johnson) or it was the wrong system or there were personal problems no one knew about outside the team. Teams like the Timberwolves had high picks for a decade and it took 10 years to get one or two who worked. Often you don’t get lucky in the lottery or it’s a poor draft year. So you take a chance on talent. That’s what the Bulls seem to be doing. It’s a reliable pattern these days.
The number of second round picks that were sold was startling especially in a supposedly strong draft. The sale of #38, especially to the Warriors, was really puzzling as the Bulls D league proximity seemed like it could be ideal for prospects. Very recently Gar/Pax were positive about the 38th pick. What is your take? Who is the 3, small forward? Is this not Bell’s position?
Sam: It’s amazing to me on some level the obsession about a second round pick. Just because someone picked a guy at that spot hardly means the Bulls would have. But beyond that the larger issue remains the rotation was crazy last year and no one benefitted because there were too many young guys in musical chairs for too few chairs (minutes). So pick a core and let them play. It’s pretty clear you can get a second anytime you want. When the Bulls were winning titles, they used to give away first round picks every year and no one said a word. Yes, I know, winning titles and this team isn’t. But I’ll let Iverson explain it better, “We’re talkin second round picks here. Second round picks!”
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